BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS (S.T.E.P.) — Minister of Tourism the Hon Lindsay Grant on Wednesday, November 25 unveiled the Rails to Trails Project signage which forms part of community tourism that is envisioned to not only be an economic driver in the communities, but one that will ensure sustainability of the tourism product.
“This Rails to Trails Project started back in 2016, and was really a commitment by the Ministry of Tourism for Community Tourism,” said the Hon Grant, who is also the Minister of Transport and Ports, at the function which was held at Palmetto Point, along the Island Main Road, atop the old railway tracks just below the iconic Trinity Anglican Church.
“It is significant that we started here in Palmetto Point because Challengers was the first free slave settlement in St. Kitts and Nevis,” said the Hon Grant who was accompanied by the Permanent Secretary Mrs. Carlene Henry-Morton. Also present was the Executive Director of Tourism Events Unit, Mr. Allister Williams, and members of the team.
It was significant the project started there as there is a tremendous amount of history in the area, the Hon Grant pointed out. He added: “And as we go along in our Rails to Trails Project, I am advised that we are going to follow on and go somewhere to Newton Ground which also has a significant area which we can develop.”
According to the Honourable Minister, the Rails to Trails go back to the history of sugar cultivation in the Caribbean and he reminded that St. Kitts was known as Sugar City. He noted that with that history, people have their stories to tell and the project will be one way a person can tell their story to those who come to visit, and that would also bolster their own personal development and knowledge of what their ancestors would have gone through.
“But we would hope that Rails to Trails is not only that, but turns out to be an economic driver for the persons in the community because that is what Community Tourism is all about,” observed the Hon Grant. “We do not expect that the economics of tourism just rests in the town of Basseterre, but we would hope that economics of tourism filters through places like Palmetto Point and Challengers, and that is what we are hoping from this project.”
The project is also a way to ensure that the tourism that the country is building its economy on is sustainable, noting that sustainability is very important. It has been recognised, he added, that the days have long gone when all the tourists wanted was sun, sand and sea. He said they want to take some of the country’s history, culture, and heritage.
“Of course this is part of what we are trying to endeavour, and hopefully those who are tasked with the opportunity of ensuring that we keep this area in pristine condition would consider that the flora and the fauna is important, our fruit trees are important, and we keep the natural beauty going,” pleaded the Hon Grant.
The ceremony was chaired by Tourism Officer, Ms. Shaline Welcome, and was attended by local resident Mrs. Yvonne Seaton who assisted Minister Grant in unveiling the signage. Delivering the vote of thanks was Tourism Research Officer, Mrs. Therez Ambrose-Versailles.
Also in attendance included members of the local community, the Skills Training Empowerment Programme (STEP) Senior Field Officer Mr. Jason McKoy, and members of STEP Community Enhancement Groups from Challengers led by their supervisor Ms. Jewel Pelle, and the Boyd’s and West Farm group led by their supervisor Mr. Cleavon Huggins, who had on the previous day (Tuesday, November 24) cleared the overgrown bushes in area where the ceremony to unveil the signage was held.
“What the Ministry of Tourism has started here, is a demonstration of what should be the completed Rails to Trails Project that follows on the western side of the island leading from Trinity to Sandy Point,” said Community Tourism Officer Ms. Shaline Welcome. “The demonstration area restores 1.4 kilometres of natural beauty along the railway, exposing the community’s richest assets of history and culture.”
In conclusion, Ms Welcome said: “There is much work to be done fellow residents to complete this amazing and very promising trail, but we cannot do so alone without the assistance of you as we seek to preserve our richest assets – our heritage, our history, our culture.”